ND Pre-Election Credit Union Perspective
by Jeff Olson, DakCU President/CEO
With the mid-term elections less than one week away, we are not expecting a lot of drama in any of North Dakota’s major races, nor will there be any doubt who will control the legislative chambers.
In the federal races, Senator John Hoeven is seeking re-election to his third term in the U.S. Senate. North Dakota’s Senior Senator is facing a challenge by Dr. Rick Becker (Republican Independent) and Katrina Christiansen (Democrat).
Becker, a former state representative from Bismarck, narrowly lost the Republican endorsement at the party’s endorsing convention this past April. His showing this spring proved that he could put together an impressive grassroots machine and he will likely take a large swath of conservative voters away from Senator Hoeven. He is also counting on getting a little extra push from Measure 1 supporters (term limit measure for state lawmakers which we oppose and covered extensively in the Memo) and may peel away some of Senator Hoeven’s typical 70 percent victory margin. It’s not likely, however, that Dr. Becker can split the Republican vote enough for the Democratic candidate, Katrina Christiansen, to steal a win for her party. There simply are not enough Democratic supporters in the state today.
Measure 2, which legalizes the use and possession of one ounce of marijuana for adults 21 years of age and older is also on the North Dakota ballot, and four other states will also be voting on this issue, including Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, and South Dakota.
Our prediction: Senator Hoeven will be elected to his third term with 55 percent or more of the vote. Democrat Katrina Christiansen will earn 25 to 28 percent of the vote, and at best, Dr. Rick Becker will garner around 17 to 19 percent.
In the race for North Dakota’s lone seat in the U.S. House, Congressman Kelly Armstrong, a Dickinson native who currently lives in Bismarck, is seeking his third term. He is being challenged by Cara Mund, Bismarck native and a Harvard Law School graduate. Mund is a former staff intern for Senator Hoeven but is running as an independent. She is also known for making history as the first, and only, woman from North Dakota to become Miss America. She was a bit late to the party, as she announced her intentions to run late this summer. Her late entry was inspired by the U.S. Supreme Courts Dobbs decision, which give individual states the full power to regulate abortions.
Our prediction: Mund’s late entry means she is way behind in getting the necessary ground game up and running in time to make a proper challenge, nor does she have the necessary financial backing to take on a popular incumbent. While Mund will have the benefit of getting support from Democrat voters and financial support from out of state donors, it simply won’t be enough to unseat Armstrong who appears to be a rising star in the US. House who could end up with a committee leadership position if the Republicans regain control of the House. Also, North Dakota is a predominately pro-life state and that doesn’t favor Mund if that’s her top platform agenda item.
North Dakota Legislative Races
Here is what we know, the state’s 68th Legislative Session will see new leadership in key positions in both chambers, including new Senate and House Majority Leaders as well as a new Senate Minority Leader. This is mainly due to key retirements and re-districting.
Heading into this election cycle the Republicans have what is called the trifecta, having the governor’s chair, as well as majorities in both the Senate and House chambers. In fact, Republicans have had control of both chambers for last 28 years, and they have had a super majority in both chambers for the last 20 years.
North Dakota has a total of 141 legislative representatives, 47 in the Senate and 94 in the House. Heading into this election cycle, the Republicans hold a 37 to 10 advantage in the Senate, and an 80 to 14 edge in the House. This will be the first election since new district boundaries were approved. The redistricting process happens once every ten years due to population shifts across the state. Today, each legislative district has approximately 16,500 residents (plus or minus). We have also experienced population growths in more urban areas which has resulted in expansive rural districts that stretch across multiple counties. When new boundaries were approved, 17 districts saw significant changes, including the addition of sub districts in Districts 4 and 9, where there will be one representative elected.
All told, there are 32 Senate seats to fill this election cycle, of which, only 12 are contested. This means the Republicans are guaranteed to hold 12 seats and the Democrats will have one seat secured. In the House there are 70 seats to fill, of which the Republicans are already guaranteed 37 seats. Since many of these races were decided in the June primary, there are only 17 contested contests on the House side this election cycle.
Our prediction: The Republicans will maintain their super majority in both chambers. In fact, it’s quite possible they actually pick up seats in both chambers from the new districts and sub districts. Districts to watch: District 9a (Roulette County) 9b (Towner & Cavalier Counties), District 10, Southwest Fargo; District 27, Northeast Fargo, and District 43, Southeast Grand Forks.
In Great Fiscal Position
Financially, North Dakota is clearly one of the best run states in the county. North Dakota has $22.6 billion available to pay $8.9 billion worth of bills, meaning there is $13.7 billion surplus, which breaks down to $49,600 per taxpayer.
As we met with legislators and candidates this past fall, one of the concerns many of them discussed is how to spend the estimated $380 million budget surplus that is anticipated when the biennial budget ends June 30, 2023. It’s a nice problem to have!
Be sure to check out the South Dakota perspective with Jay Kruse today, and stay tuned to the Memo next Wednesday for post-election coverage.
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